Planning Action

Group – Toronto, Canada

2001 onwards

Planning Action is a Toronto-based non-profit organisation whose members include urban planners, architects and activists. They came together following the Planners Network conference of 2000 in Toronto, as a group of graduate students who had helped to co-ordinate the event but were unsatisfied by the outcomes. They founded Planning Action with the intention of being a more explicitly activist organisation engaged in local issues. They are organised as a number of workgroups, each dealing with a very specific issue such as developing 'alternative' plans for the Toronto waterfront, or investigating the impacts of global decisions on local planning, or offering planning, design and advocacy services to local communities. They not only critically challenge the status quo but also act propositionally, suggesting other ways of imagining the city.

They have modelled themselves on the Community Technical Aid Centres of the UK and other similar organisations, but unlike these, Planning Action also acts as a pressure group. They have campaigned against the Official Plan for Toronto in 2002, which they saw as catering only to the needs of property owners and developers and have also critiqued the lack of participation in the planning system. Using their expert knowledge they have intervened in planning committees, written articles in community publications, and organised public meetings to try to open up the discussion beyond the narrow confines of the planning profession.

Other Work

Cowen, Deborah, "Activist Planning and the Neoliberal City: The Case of Planning Action." Progressive Planning (Summer 2004) (accessed October 26, 2009,).

Planning Action, "Planning Action Deputation on the Central Waterfront Part II Plan".

---, "Planning Action Deputation on the City of Toronto Draft Official Plan.".

---, "Poverty of Planning: Tent City, City Hall and Toronto's New Official Plan." Newsletter of Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (July 11, 2002).

References About

Hammett, Kingsley, "Voices of Opposition." Designer/Builder, 8(2)(August 2006): 11-14.


It was increasingly clear to us that planning was becoming a professional and corporate exercise, precisely at a time when the growing polarization, racialization and feminization of poverty and space was coming to define the social landscape of Toronto.

- Deborah Cowan, Activist Planning and the Neoliberal City: The Case of Planning Action;


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